Thursday, October 27, 2011

We have a plan!

Roadmap for economic development unveiled

White smoke did not rise from the Goochland County administration building on October 4 when John Rhodes presented the strategic plan for economic development he has been crafting since late spring.

While many of the suggestions are not new, Rhodes wove them into a countywide approach. Goochland is not a one size fits all kind of place and this strategic plan is very careful to make place appropriate suggestions.

The plan is not rocket science, but it never occurred to the space cadets that made county policy ten years ago that such a plan was needed then. Their approach to economic development was like putting a boat into a pond churning with fish and expecting the fish to jump into the boat while others dangle enticing lures and tasty bait. Guess who got all the big fish?

The report is in Part II of the board packet, which is in the supervisors’ section of the county website at A recording of Rhodes’ presentation is in the same place.

Rhodes explained that current conditions in the real estate market do not favor the large supply of raw developable land that Goochland has banked on for the last decade. The county has no existing buildings with space to lease, which is in greatest demand right now.

The good news is that major companies that are in West Creek want small businesses including a hotel, restaurants, gas stations, dry cleaners and day care providers nearby so their employees don’t have to go to Short Pump.

That means opportunities for small business, which everyone says they support, but county policy discourages. Rhodes said that the county must streamline its procedures to encourage, not deter creation of business. A survey of existing businesses in the report included complaints that Goochland is, at best, not business friendly.

A new element in this strategic plan for economic development is a timetable and tracking to measure results.

Recommended steps to be taken include creation of mixed use zoning for the TCSD; streamline county processes; create an economic development website and hiring an economic development director. The existing Economic Development Authority, comprised of appointees from the county, will be an integral part of this initiative.

While Goochland need to attract economic growth, Rhodes said, it must define itself in a way that reflects our rural character. To this end Rhodes’ plan includes creation of a master plan for Centerville that would include mixed use on a less intense scale, reflective of a rural community, in order to differentiate it from Short Pump.

A key component of this strategy is creation of an economic development website that touts Goochland’s resources in detail.

Rhodes observed that the Interstate 64 interchanges lack public utilities and high speed internet access, which make them less attractive for development in spite of location. Plans for enhancing water, sewer and telecom in these areas must be crafted, perhaps in conjunction with Louisa County.

A conceptual plan for Courthouse Village needs to be drawn. Rhodes suggested building on the strength of the J. Sergeant Reynolds horticulture program to create a horticulture and garden center that could attract serious gardeners.

There is a need for some sort of lodging in Courthouse Village for students at the JSRCC automotive training program who now must travel out of the county for this service. Rhodes was careful to characterize this lodging facility as an inn rather than a hotel keeping with the less intense scale of Courthouse Village.
Outdoor enthusiasts should also be ta
rgeted, said Rhodes, by finding ways to make the James River and our scenic byways more accessible to affluent city dwellers looking for a recreational dose of the great outdoors.

Rhodes pointed out that “pad ready sites,” parcels of zoned land with utilities and roads in place are needed to get new businesses to even consider a locality. Goochland, he said, has few of these. Even West Creek, which is zoned, is mostly covered by timber. It’s lovely to drive through, but if you’re shopping for a place to put your company, trees are a turn off.

This leads to; pardon the expression, a teachable moment that is unfolding in Centerville. Remember the contentious Goodwill zoning application for land in front of a subdivision on Broad Street Road that was withdrawn after intense citizen opposition?

Well, Goodwill is in the design review stage of bringing the same store to property on the west side of St. Matthew’s Lane between Broad Street Road and Plaza Drive. The land was zoned, cleared, served by roads and utilities and ready to go. Had someone been paying attention about a year ago, the Goodwill Store might already be in operation.

The plan also suggests elimination of land use taxation in the TCSD, which will be implemented about two days after hell freezes over.

Rhodes has delivered a workable plan to get economic development on track in Goochland. Encouraging creation of small businesses to target employees of large companies in West Creek is a little like harvesting anchovies. If done well, the whales will follow.

The real question here is will the board elected in November use this plan as a blueprint for action or add it to the pile gathering dust on a shelf.
If you believe that the actions outlined in the strategic plan for economic development are sound, please let all candidates know it’s time for action.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hope on the horizon

School board on the cusp

A relative handful of people attended an October 20 Chamber of Commerce forum for school board candidates, but they got a clear picture of what’s wrong with our current school board.

Phil Daniel of WZEZ 100.5 FM moderated both forums. “The good doctor Phil,” did an outstanding job of keeping the discussion on schedule.

Incumbents contended that current difficulties are the result of budget cuts; the whole kerfuffle over the past few school budgets was generated by a handful of parents who got crabby when their favorite programs were cut. They touted their experience and dedication to delivery of a quality education for all county students as justification for reelection but gave few examples.

Challengers by contrast offered a wide range of innovative approaches to the problems faced by Goochland schools that do not necessarily include increasing property taxes.

The very fact that new people are running for every school board seat clearly indicates widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Once again, as the bland nature of questions put forth offered copious shelter for incumbents, challengers used the opportunity to paint a clear picture of what can be accomplished with a new school board.

Subjects covered were general and, for the most part, ignored the question of the superintendent.

Incumbents never explained why the school system failed, for at least the past two budget cycles, to prepare proposed budgets based expected actual revenues. Instead, the schools presented budgets far in excess of expected revenues and demanded that the supervisors raise taxes to fund them.

(An October 23 revelation by District 3 incumbent supervisor Ned Creasey that the schools had about $1 million left over at the end of the last fiscal year gives credence to allegations by challengers that the school budget is essentially based on magical thinking rather than hard facts and real numbers.)

Incumbents in Districts 4 and 5 did not seek reelection. John Wright faces no opposition in District 5. Beth Hardy and Phil Davis, both excellent candidates are running for the District 4 seat.

Several challengers compared this year’s election to Goochland hiring a team to lead the schools for the next four years.

The new candidates bring complementary skill sets to the task.

Only Penny Palen, who entered the race to ensure that District 2 incumbent Ray Miller, allegedly a member of the Bowles/Quarles clan, faced opposition, offers little in the way of real world experience.

Palen’s unsuccessful suit against the school board to prevent another extension of the superintendent’s contract indicates that she is not a team player. Palen’s involvement in or schools and commitment to excellence in Goochland education is commendable. However, if she truly wants Miller replaced she must withdraw from the race and throw her support behind Kevin Hazzard. A three person race works in Miller’s favor.

Hazzard brings impressive career credentials and boundless innovative energy to the table. Suggestions he presented during his brief comment period included establishing a junior ROTC program in Goochland, which could be done with no cost to the school system. The leadership and personal discipline skills taught by such a program are useful no matter where a student’s life path leads.

Hazzard, who has skills and connections in the education and information technology worlds also believes that it is possible to ensure that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, have access to some sort of broadband connection so that they can keep up with their school work. He contended that Goochland schools currently do nothing to prepare students for the skilled labor market.

Michael Payne, District 1 challenger, who is a vocational tech teacher in Henrico, strongly believes that removing vo-tech opportunities from the Goochland curriculum has hobbled many students from reaching their full potential. Payne contended that all students can benefit from this kind of pratical learning opportunity, which sometimes makes the importance of “classroom learning” like math more accessible by illustrating real world applications.

All challengers have children in Goochland schools and well aware of the good and bad in our educational system.

John Lumpkins District 3 challenger got a round of applause when he advocated keeping the library at the high school open for student use all day.

All of the challengers said that the school budget should focus on teachers, which they believe are the foundation of a good education.
Hardy said that our teachers should be respected as professionals and be able to speak openly about their concerns without fear of reprisal. She believes that fresh eyes on the schools and new leadership will provide the inspiration to get things back on track.

Davis concurred stating that our schools need to create a supportive environment to untether teachers from restrictions that prevent them from using all of their skills to light the fire of learning in our kids. Goochland schools, he said, are at a turning point. People are fed up with incumbents saying the same thing year after year and never getting things right.

Lumpkins knew there was a serious problem with the school board when the supervisors imposed a holdback on some school funds following repeated failure of the schools to comply with requests for explanatory budget information.

All challengers repeatedly took issue with the lack of school board discussion before voting on issues. Indeed, attend a school board meeting to see the term “done deal” in action.

The challengers will bring new energy and insight to issues that face our schools and regain citizen trust. The incumbents just need more of your money to fail to accomplish what they’ve failed to accomplish in the past.

Items of local interest

The Richmond Symphony will present a concert at Goochland High School on Saturday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Goochland Rotary, the concert will benefit local charities. This is a great way to introduce your children to classical music. Visit for more information. Tickets may be purchased online.

Attention all hunters! The Center for Rural Culture presents “Deer Processing Made Simple” a workshop that teaches methods for gleaning the most usable meat from a deer carcass. Two sessions, Thursday, November 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, November 12 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. will be held at Nadolski’s Butcher Shop on River Road West in Goochland Courthouse Village.

The cost is $25 and space is limited. To register, go to All meat processed during the workshops will be donated to the Goochland Community Food Pantry.

Advance orders for the Goochland Historical Society calendar featuring vintage photos are being taken. Bundles of 25 calendars for $100 are available. The 2012 calendar cover will feature a photo of the first firefighter class offered in Goochland to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue. For more information, contact and put GHS calendar in the subject line.

Don’t forget the county fall festival this Saturday, October 29 from 12 to 4 p.m. on the old football field behind the county administration building. Michelle Nixon and Drive is the featured entertainment.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Softball season extended

Chamber forum shelters incumbents

Hardball was not on the agenda of the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on October 18 for those seeking the offices of supervisor and treasurer. The high school auditorium was about one third filled.

Given that public speaking is difficult for most people, the participants did a great job getting their points across to the audience. Andrew Pryor, the 40 year District 1 incumbent even roused himself to speak in clearly audible declarative sentences.

None of the questions addressed the recurring scandals that plagued county government for the past few years.

Perhaps forum organizers decided that it was simpler to ask the same questions of all candidates but allowing incumbents to sidestep responsibility for the dysfunctional management of county government under their watch is unacceptable.

Happily, challengers jumped in with barbs to bring some of the mess to the forefront.

Multi-term incumbents used the event to blithely insist that their experience makes them eminently qualified to continue to run Goochland. Both Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 4 and Pryor assured attendees that things aren’t as bad as they’ve been led to believe. They provided no specifics. Perhaps they know about another stash of unnegotiated checks.

Ken Petersen District 5, who prevailed in an August Republican primary and faces no challenge in November, began his remarks with a definition of politics: “poli, meaning many and tics meaning blood sucking insects.”
He said that repeated revelations of fiscal mismanagement in the county utility department compelled him to run for supervisor. Petersen, who has advanced degrees in finance and decades of high level experience with bonds, observed that there was a lack of financial expertise on the board of supervisors that he hopes to fill.

Butler illustrated this deficiency a bit later when he contended, in response to a comment from his opponent Bob Minnick that the Tuckahoe Creek Service Debt is $167 million, that Goochland only owes $58 million.
Does that mean Butler will use his “connections downtown” to get the state to forgive the interest on the TCSD bonds?

Butler also overlooked the approximately $5 million in an arbitrage account that is part of the TCSD debt. Anyone who has ever had a mortgage knows that, when you factor in the interest, the real cost of a house is a good bit higher than the face amount. Perhaps he’s been following the Greek debt crisis for tips on dealing with the TCSD debt.

District 1 challenger Susan Lascollette said that one of her first priorities is to roll back the mechanism put into place by the supervisors earlier this year to raise their own pay. She rejects a countywide tax increase to pay TCSD debt as was suggested in the recent Davenport study.
Lascollette is ready to work to get county schools back on track and encourage economic development that will enhance the county’s revenue base without threatening the rural atmosphere. She said that the county will face another year of declining revenues and hard budget choices.

Lascollette said that the people of Goochland make it special and serving them is her first priority. She cited her work background investigating and evaluating businesses as her one of her primary qualifications to serve as supervisor.

Pryor touted his 40 years on the board as his prime credential for reelection. He also said that he has served his constituents well because he has a good relationship with all county department heads. Has he forgotten that virtually every department head has been replaced in the past two years as part of the house cleaning in county administration? His remarks also contrast reports of many folks in District 1 that Pryor rarely returns phone calls.

Pryor also rejects the notion that all county taxpayers should share the TCSD debt burden. He said that TCSD landowners will reap the benefits from the utilities and they should pay for them. Pryor said that he supports schools and fire-rescue but offered no specifics.

Board chair William Quarles, Jr. District 2 touted his certification as a qualified supervisor and experience as reasons to reelect him. Quarles also said that many things need to be done to move Goochland ahead.
In office for eight years, after succeeding his father-in-law as District 2 supervisor, this is the first time Quarles has been challenged. His opponent, Manuel Alvarez Jr. asked why Quarles failed to do any of these things in the eight years he has been in office.

Alvarez contended that his being a relative newcomer to the county is an asset. Indeed, he brings fresh eyes to old problems and is not beholden to the special interests that seem to pull the strings on the MTIs. He also managed to get Comcast service to his home. That kind of persistence persuasiveness alone should get him elected.

Only Ned Creasey District 3, running for his second term, addressed the disastrous mismanagement that plagued Goochland before his election.

“Imagine what things would be like if the election four years ago had turned out differently,” Creasey said.

Indeed. In his first year in office, Creasey fought an uphill battle against an entrenched county administrator to gain access to basic information about county operations. His refusal to vote for approval to pay a years’ overdue bill for more than $1 million was the first volley in what became a war to clean up the utilities department.

Creasey asked to be reelected because there is more digging to be done. He said that Goochland’s potential is far from being met. Creasey believes that the right people need to be put into place to polish the many facets of the jewel that is Goochland.

Creasey contended that the right plan, executed by the right people, needs to be put into place to move the county forward. Most important of all, the supervisors need to regain the trust of the citizens.

All of the MTIs said that the county will soon hire an economic development director to bring new business to the county. Have they forgotten that that the county had an incredibly ineffective economic development director for about ten years?

Butler took credit for the expansion of Richmond International Airport during his tenure as president of the Virginia Association of Counties. He did not explain why he did not use that clout to bring some bacon home to Goochland.

Quarles promised transparent and responsive government. Yet he worked hard almost three years ago to ensure that important matters were discussed only behind closed doors. His back to back terms as board chair, in violation of an allegedly agreed upon rotation policy, has allowed him to keep embarrassing matters off of the agenda. It would be nice to know exactly how he defines transparency.

District 3 challenger Alan Tucker made vague statements about transparency and collaboration between the supervisors and school board. He supports appropriate economic development and protection of rural character but offered no specifics.

Minnick, who came very late to the race, said that the county needs to quickly adopt a more user friendly approach to economic development. A resident of the TCSD, Minnick said that the county needs to identify and fund core functions first.

Minnick, who started a small business in 2006, said that the county needs to find the best ideas to generate economic development here. In spite of the bad economy, neighboring jurisdictions have managed to attract new businesses, but nothing has happened in Goochland. He said that he brings new ideas to make things happen that will move Goochland from a good county to a great county.

Alvarez said that the supervisors need to regain the citizens’ trust. School graduation rates need to be better and that does not necessarily translate into increasing the school budget. He believes that the county needs to create an environment that will attract more businesses and that the county should stop harassing the businesses it has.

Quarles used his habitual buzzwords of procedures, processes, continuing dialog and connectivity to answer pretty much every question. It would be nice to know what he really thinks.

The bottom line is that the forum provided the opportunity for voters to see the candidates side by side. While the turnout wasn’t too bad, it remains to be seen how many people actually care what happens in local government.

Please ponder these matters and make an informed choice at the polls on November 8.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Tidbits from the supervisors’ meeting

Election season is in high gear and there is a lot going on. The incumbent supervisors are busily scurrying around their districts dispensing threats and incentives, as the situation warrants, to get votes on November 8.

At their October meeting, the supervisors learned that the county will recover the funds stolen by the former treasurer Brenda Grubbs thanks to state bonding.

County administrator Rebecca T. Dickson told the board that she is preparing a victim impact statement detailing the widespread negative impact the theft had on the county. This will be delivered to Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner to use when he sentences Grubbs on December 13.

Dickson told the board that Goochland are being asked to participate in the Accelerate Virginia project to get a better handle on how internet services are distributed across the Commonwealth. (If you have not already done so, please visit and participate. You also get a report that gives you a detailed look at the speed of your particular connection.)

Dickson also reported that Verizon seems to have addressed the problems that caused declining wireless service in some parts of the county.
The Board voted to permit Southern States in Courthouse Village to hold a rabies vaccination on November 5. This is a great way to protect your domestic animals against rabies.

A list of long range road improvement projects for the county was trotted out for the board’s information. This list, which goes out for decades and identifies no funding source, will be presented to the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

These include items on the ever popular and often fictional VDOT six year plan, whose items often take decades to materialize. The projects on the MPO list are to have regional significance and identify a future transportation vision, or something.

At the very bottom of the list, which, to be fair did not prioritize items, was an interchange modification study for the Rt. 288 Broad Street Road interchange. That’s where people not familiar with the area or those with a death wish try to make left turns onto westbound Broad Street Road. Not one board member suggested that this item be given a high priority. Building a four lane bridge on Rt. 6 over Genito Creek was far higher up the list. We’ve never gotten an explanation for VDOT’s failure to build a full cloverleaf where Broad Street Road and Rt. 288 intersect.

Retiring District 5 supervisor James Eads made a presentation about the Tuckahoe Creek Service District financing. (Please see the board packet and listen to the recording of this presentation at

Eads gave a brief recap of how the TCSD was created. He contended that the plan to enter into agreements with Henrico County and the City of Richmond to obtain a public utility capacity was crafted by major landowners and forced upon the supervisors.

Some major TCSD landowners have a different recollection. The recall being approached by the county with the plan and being informed that they needed to act quickly or they would miss the opportunity to bring utilities to their land.

We will never know what really happened. It’s hard to believe that if given enough time to adequately vet the TCSD scheme some TCSD property owners would have, at the very least, questioned the wild growth assumptions used in the bond applications.

Eads did make the very valid point that all county citizens have paid a part of the cost of the TCSD because only 45 percent of the real estate tax on the increased valuation on commercial property in the TCSD goes to the county. The remainder is used to pay debt service.

Eads also contended that the TCSD was never intended to be an economic engine for the county. It’s curious that is almost a decade of hearing the economic engine statement bandied about Eads speaks out now.

His short term solution to the dearth of TCSD development, which he blames solely on the current economic downturn, is to eliminate land use taxation in the TCSD. In reality, the TCSD never took off. As early as 2004, when it was barely online, property owners griped that the county refused to enact zoning appropriate for the amount of available utilities.

Eads contended that permitting land use taxation on property served by water and sewer offers no incentive for development. He even prepared a rough map illustrating the number acres at the Ashland Road Interstate 64 interchange currently in land use that should be developed.

He made a motion that the county petition the Virginia General Assembly to permit Goochland to rescind eligibility for land use taxation on the TCSD. Should the GA decline to grant that wish, Eads said the county should abolish land use county wide. He argued that permitting land use taxation in the TCSD acts as a deterrent to development.

A dead silence followed Eads’ motion as his fellow supervisors declined to put forth a second, killing the motion.

District 1 supervisor Andrew Pryor observed that when people were recruited to join the TCSD they were told that they could retain land use taxation until the land was developed.

Ned Creasey District 3 observed that there has been no recent meeting with the TCSD advisory committee and contended that group should have a voice in any decision.

Rudy Butler, District 4 said that the county needs to get a plan to deal with the TCSD debt, work through all of the details and come up with a solution.

Eads replied that Butler’s suggestion was “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

Board chair William Quarles Jr. said that he wants everyone to come to the table and understand the entire situation, which effectively closed the discussion. You can bet that this will not surface at the next meeting.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

District 4 Tea Party election event

A sampling

On October 11 District 4 candidates for supervisor and school board presented their case for election to a standing room only crowd at an informal forum sponsored by the Goochland Tea Party.

Kudos to the Tea Party for organizing candidate events by district so citizens can get a side by side look at the people who want their votes.
Seeking the District 4 supervisor seat are multi-term incumbent Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler and challenger Bob Minnick.

Butler seems insulted that anyone would dare oppose him in the general election. Given the revelations of the past few years, multi-term incumbents should be glad their constituents haven’t considered tar and feathers.

Butler touted his experience and sought to distance himself from the scandals and revelations of abysmal mismanagement of county government that have occurred in the past few years.

Butler gave an overview of challenges facing the county referring to the TCSD debt as “the bear in the closet.” He said that the county must make serious decisions about resolution of the TCSD debt situation. Goochland, he said, must find ways to deal with the looming debt while protecting the investment homeowners and He seemed to suggest that the county needed a bridge loan to deal with the debt but was a bit vague about details.

Butler contended that the county needs to work harder to bring broadband service to more people in the county. He mentioned the broadband consultant that the county hired about four years ago and blamed lack of results on the bad economy. He spoke about other localities, like Louisa, deploying “mini towers” to improve signal strength for wireless internet. Louisa, unlike Goochland, has revenue from a nuclear power plant and Wal-Mart distribution center to help fund such endeavors.

Butler explained that Virginia Senator Mark Warner met with the supervisors earlier this year to discuss broadband and pledged to help with regulatory issues, but gave little hope that there is any federal money for the matter.

Butler declared that he would not vote for the urban development areas as mandated by the state.

He reiterated his general support for small business, but gave few details as to how the perception that Goochland is hostile to business can be changed.

Butler tap danced around a question about the recent Davenport study of the TCSD debt that revealed there was no investigation into the wildly optimistic annual growth assumptions used to justify the bond issue. He said that Goochland supervisors are part-time and they must depend on the recommendations of their advisors. Butler said those advisors told the supervisors that if the county got $10 million worth of growth every year the debt would work out.

One Butler supporter implied that the TCSD fell apart because Motorola never built a proposed computer chip plant in West Creek. The county knew that Motorola was not coming at least two years before the TCSD was created.

Minnick, who lives in the TCSD and pays both ever escalating water and sewer charges as well as the ad valorem tax, said that his campaign is about new ideas to solve the problems facing Goochland,.
He said that the supervisors must work harder to bring the county together to address its problems.

Minnick also opposed the UDA proposals for Goochland. He said that he cannot reconcile the term urban as applied to a rural community.

Minnick supports vigorous efforts to bring economic development to the TCSD by hiring a competent economic development director and being more proactive to ensure that Goochland has a seat at the regional development table. He said that the county must pursue all possible opportunities to increase the tax base.

He believes that the county must work harder to bring broadband access to all citizens by creating an environment that would attract them. He too was a bit light on details.

Minnick contended that, because the TCSD debt, which he said is around $167 million, was secured in part by the moral obligation of Goochland County, everyone “is on the hook” for that debt regardless of which district they call home. He opposes a tax increase to pay the debt, but believes that the county cannot continue to ignore the problem.

The District 4 school board seat is open.

School board candidates Beth Hardy and Phil Davis gave presentations that were textbook lessons in civics at its best. Both of these fine citizens made it clear that they are very troubled about the lack of leadership and transparency exhibited by the incumbent school board.

Rather than attack each other, they elaborated on the deficiencies they perceive in the school system and strategies for improvement. Neither supports a tax increase to fund schools because there is far too little information about school funding available.

When asked if she supported a tax increase to fund the school budget Hardy explained that when her family’s revenue sources declined she and her husband reordered their priorities because they did not have the option to raise taxes to cover their personal shortfall. She believes that the school system must do the same.

Hardy said that there is far too little information about how the school system actually spends its money to offer an opinion on the need for additional funds. She questioned the need to hire a director of elementary education whose salary could pay two and one half teachers.

Davis said that the current school board lacks leadership and has allowed school administration to create a repressive culture in county schools that uses intimidation to enforce its policies by chastising teachers who speak out and stifling creativity in the classroom. Even parents are afraid to speak out, he contended, for fear of retribution against their children. This has caused the exodus of many extraordinarily talented educators. Davis said that, especially in difficult times, positive leadership is needed to encourage teachers.

He said that he deplores waste and believes that parents and citizens are entitled to more information about the way that tax dollars are spent.
Both hardy and Davis believe that good teachers are the most important resource of a school system. Both believe that the schools can do better by our kids and should increase academic rigor. They both believe that there should be educational options to help all students, not just the college bound, be prepared to be productive in the next phase of their lives.

They pledged to keep all citizens informed about the school system, whose annual budget consumes a bit more than all revenues generated by local property taxes.

The elections are less than four weeks away. Things are getting more interesting by the minute.

Monday, October 10, 2011

First look

Election activity shifts into high gear

The Goochland chapter of the NAACP set a high standard for others to follow at its October 6 candidate forum held at the Rec Center in Sandy Hook. Members of this fine nonpartisan organization put a great deal of thought and work into the event and are to be commended for this important service to the community.

Although all candidates were invited to participate, incumbent supervisors had previously committed to an event at J.Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Sekou Shabaka president of the Goochland NAACP explained that a second forum, for supervisors only, will be held at 7 p.m. at the Rec Center on Thursday, October 13. Please attend if you can the event will be well worth your time.

The very fact that there are many candidates for local office indicates the high level of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Goochland is truly blessed to have so citizens willing to stand for public office and bring important issues into focus during the campaign season.

The forum gave each candidate an opportunity to make an introductory statement followed by audience questions and brief closing remarks.
Following are thumbnail highlights, which are not complete recaps of comments.

Susan Lascollettte (District 1 supervisor challenger) said that she believes that the looming interest payment on the Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt must be addressed quickly before it swamps Goochland government. Long term unchecked incompetence on every level has made a mess of Goochland government. Lascollette said that she is opposed to the proposed 25 percent increase in supervisor pay.

Jim Haskell (District 1 school board incumbent) said that every student in Goochland public schools gets a good education and is ready to take on the next step in life. He said that he is open to the idea of “a vocational type thing” for students not college bound. He contended that our schools are working hard to close the achievement gap between black and white students and that the school board works on this issue every month. He blamed the dissatisfaction among parents on shrinking revenues.

Michael Payne (District 1 school board challenger) said that Goochland schools do a great job getting kids ready to go to college, but putting every student in the same education mode doesn’t work. Payne, a vocational teacher in Henrico, is a strong advocate for reinstating a vocational component to county schools to provide a wider range of options for all students.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. (District 2 supervisor challenger) said that he decided to run for office because he was fed up with the scandal of the week and dysfunctional operation of local government. He cited the fact that the county neglected to renew the Comcast contract for four years as one instance of incompetence. He also said that keeping knowledge of problems with the treasurer under wraps for years was appalling and promised to conduct county business in an open and honest manner.

Penny Palen (District 2 school board challenger) said that Goochland schools are not delivering an education to prepare our kids to live in the 21st century. She made some other incomprehensible remarks. Perhaps Palen was nervous, but she came across as imperious and arrogant, two qualities with which the incumbent school board is well endowed. (Visit for a summary of Palen’s counterproductive legal action against the schools.)

Ray Miller (District 2 school board incumbent) made comments that were sweet but vague. He said that the actions taken by the school board are dictated by Code and touted the great strides that county schools have made in the last 15 years. He also supports continuing efforts to ensure that African American students have equal educational opportunities.

Kevin Hazzard (District 2 school board challenger) said that student achievement will be the basis for all actions he takes on the school board. He believes that the school budget should focus first on money to be spent in the classroom. He would create a grant writing workshop to capture the talent among Goochland citizens to help the school system obtain funding from sources other than local taxes. Please see his blog at He has clearly given a great deal of thought to the problems facing every student in the county and has crafted some innovative and achievable solutions.

Alan Tucker (District 3 challenger) is committed to transparent cooperation in local government. He supports responsible growth to deal with the TCSD debt. He did not seem to understand that West Creek and the TCSD are not the same thing.

Ivan Mattox, Sr. (District 3 school board incumbent) said that he should be reelected because he has two kids in county schools and his experience is valuable when dealing with the school budget process in lean times.

John Lumpkins, Jr. (district 3 school board challenger) said he was motivated to run to reverse the decline in local schools. Frustration with meaningless proposals, including one to replace the Goochland elementary school building even though there was no money available is but on example of the “smoke and mirrors” methods used by the current school board.

Bob Minnick (District 4 supervisor challenger) said that the lack of engagement by incumbent supervisors is the root cause of the widespread mismanagement and scandals revealed in the past for years. He advocates vigorous pursuit of economic development in the TCSD to offset its debt. He believes that the county needs to identify and focus on its core functions and investigate outsourcing of some services to reduce costs.

The District 4 school board seat is open.

Beth Hardy (district 4 school board) is a strong believer in public schools and her four children have benefitted from the range of services ordered by GCPS. Hardy has served on a school system advisory committee. She believes that every student should be prepared to compete in the real world when they graduate from high school. She pledged to bring full transparency to the school budget process.

Phil Davis (District 4 school board) has been an actively involved parent for several years and become increasingly concerned over the lack of logic used in making school budget decisions. He believes that in difficult economic times reducing teachers without first making reasonable budget cuts in other areas is unacceptable.

Both the District 5 supervisor and school board member are open positions.
Ken Petersen (District 5 supervisor) believes that his financial background will help the board of supervisors deal with the wide range of fiscal challenges facing Goochland. His remarks about the complexity of the structure of the TCSD bonds indicate a high level of understanding of the fiscal challenge faced by Goochland. He believes that zoning decisions should be based on a cost/benefit analysis.

John Wright (District 5 school board) said that in the past few years he has attended more school board meetings than any incumbent school board member. An accountant by trade, Wright believes that the school board must be more transparent in its actions and responsive to parents and citizens. He pledged to be honest and responsive when dealing with citizen questions.

Pamela Cooke Johnson, interim county treasurer and candidate for the office explained how she is working to get the treasurer’s office back on track since appointed to the position by the Circuit Court in April. She contended that her work experience in asset forfeiture at the federal level prepared her for the job.

Tana Marie Hogue (treasurer) said that she has extensive bookkeeping experience and would try to reduce county expenditures for fringe benefits. (The treasurer is charged with taking in revenue and paying bills, the supervisors decide how county funds are spent.)

Jonathan Lyle, (Monacan Soil and Water District commissioner) made the most entertaining presentation. He explained that the MSWD is charged with protecting soil and water resources. This office, Lyle explained, is volunteer but very important in Goochland where 85 percent of homes obtain their water from private wells.

Sheriff James L. Agnew and Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr., who face no electoral opposition, thanked the citizens for the opportunity to serve. Stokes said that Goochland is a safe place to live. Agnew said that his deputies depend on the eyes and ears of the citizens to do their job.

Tom Garrett, the Republican candidate for the newly created 22nd District in the Virginia senate, which includes all of Goochland, pledged to vote against all unfunded mandates and a gas tax increase to build roads in northern Virginia when some people in his district must drive 20 miles to a grocery store.

This year more than ever Goochland citizens need to make informed decisions before casting our ballots on November 8. There are a great many important challenges facing the county that are just coming to light. Please make every effort to learn about all of the candidates and let them know that they must earn your trust and your vote.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The sounds of silence

Keeping the lid on

Goochland supervisors tiptoed through the minefield of local issues at their October 4 meeting trying to avoid yet another controversy before next month’s elections. Highlights on the agenda included a public hearing on the latest iteration of a county noise ordinance and presentation of a strategic plan for economic development.

The proposed noise ordinance was long in the making. Some citizens have been plagued by neighbors who permit chronic unrelieved dog barking or play deafening music at all hours with no regard for the rest of the world.

While these long suffering Goochlanders deserve a mechanism to address their problems, a one size fits all ordinance is not the answer.
The previous ordinance, which carried criminal penalties, was voided when similar ordinances were declared unconstitutional because of vague enforcement standards.

The latest version crafted by Goochland County Attorney Norman Sales carried civil penalties. An aggrieved party would go to a local magistrate and swear out a complaint. Offensive noise would be defined by a plainly audible standard. Fines began at $250 for the first offense escalating to $500 for repeat offenses.

The proposed ordinance addressed noise issues between the hours of 11 p.m. and seven a.m. permitting garbage trucks and construction sounds to begin an hour earlier.

Goochland’s fine and sensible hunters patiently explained how the proposed ordinance would be the “first nail in the coffin” of outlawing hunting with dogs in the county. They like to hear their dogs singing. Sounds like those are a part of the rural character everyone claims they want to preserve.

Other speakers characterized the notion that anyone could swear out a warrant could be easily abused by a neighbor with a grudge. It could also be used against the music played by Centerville areas where sound carries quite a distance. One speaker even suggested that warrants could be sworn out against snoring spouses.

The focus of the proposed ordinance was nighttime noise, but many loud tasks are performed at night. These would include unloading at grocery stores, music at gas stations and so forth. Noise associated with agriculture was exempted.

One gentleman whose life has been made miserable by the loud and incessant barking of a neighbor’s dog contended that the issue is not about dogs, but about people being responsible.

Howard Mayo pointed out that roosters make a lot noise and cannot be kept quiet until 7 a.m.

Michael McDermott contended that until the county is ready to use a noise standard based on decibels as measured by a calibrated device similar to a speed gun and distance from the source, it should leave the issue alone.
He said that the county receives about two noise complaints per week from the county at large, and regular complaints from the person who lives behind the Paws Inn in Centerville.

McDermott contended that repeated attempts at crafting a noise ordinance seem directed at the Paws Inn in Centerville. Indeed, the resident of a rental house behind Paws Inn seems to complain about noise at regular intervals.

Although District 4 supervisor Rudy Butler seems to have a vendetta against Paws Inn, he said little.

The use of decibel meters was discussed about a year ago at which time the supervisors decided the cost of the equipment was too high.

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew said that, in general, noise is not a problem in Goochland, but there are isolated problems. He contended that a shotgun approach to the issue would cause as many problems as it would solve. He urged the board to be very careful in its approach to noise abatement laws rather than cause heartache to innocent people.

The board approved 4-0 (James Eads, District 5 did not attend the evening portion of the meeting) a motion by Ned Creasey District 3 and seconded by Butler to return the issue to Sales for further study. Look for this to resurface next year if Butler is reelected.

Board Chair William Quarles Jr. District 2 said that there must be some mechanism to address the noise problem for people with legitimate problems.
The timing of this public hearing is quite curious. Two other matters on the agenda, the county’s water supply plan, which needs to be approved by the beginning of November and has been on the back burner for years, and the long anticipated economic development strategic plan are far more urgent.

Seems like they were trying to sneak the noise ordinance through when no one was paying attention. Happily, Goochland citizens are growing more vigilant by the day.